It was a moment of uncommon glitz as 21 years old Miss Rivers State, Maria Okese, clinched the first ever Most Beautiful Deaf Girl in Nigeria (MBDGN) pageantry to represent Nigeria at the 2020 Miss Deaf World in Prague, Czech Republic.
She emerged winner among the 14 contestants across 13 states including: Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Ogun, Anambra, Edo, Benue, Rivers, Ogun, and Kwara, which held at the Standard Bearers School Lekki Lagos on Friday November 1st this year.
While the top five finalists were: Anambra’s Columba Chinazo; Lagos Blessing Iyasere; Odedina Rebecca of Lagos and Ogun State, Funmilayo Ogundari alongside Okese, Columba came second and Odedina first runner up.
Indeed, it was a wow experience. A rare moment of contagious joy. Glitz. Glamour. Skills. Music. Dance. Fun. And unbeatable facial expressions. These were some of the features displayed at the 2019 contest.
According to the organisers, the MBDGN pageantry is beyond show of beauty and brain. It is a platform canvassing inclusion for the deaf in the society – classrooms, playground, work places or social places.
Despite their speech impairments, the CEO of Empathy Driven Women International Initiative (EDWIN), Mrs. Uri Ngozichukwuka, has given them a voice to be heard always.
“When it comes to the issue of disability inclusion, the Nigeria entertainment industry – for all its creative firepower, visibility and growing influence in the nation’s profile and social-economic fortunes – is still light-years behind the rest of the society,” she expressed.
She decried that in Nigeria and many parts of Africa the notion of disability inclusion is novel.
“The entertainment industry is supposed to be the vanguard – to set the pace when it comes to enhancing access to the production and consumption of creative content by People with Disabilities (PWDs)”, she expressed.
To further drive home her call, she listed creating awareness, advocacy, spatial justice and affirmative action as balm for the entertainment and beauty industries to correct the anomaly.
Although all the contestants were incredibly active and dexterous in their various talent exhibitions, only one was chosen. Okese stole the hearts of the judges with her soothing objectives for the deaf.
Okese, a professional photographer and art enthusiast, says she will create awareness on the issues of raising the standard of education for deaf children, motivate especially those deaf in Rivers State to contribute to the society despite their disabilities.
For her and the other girls, it was thanks to Dr. Tolu Oke-Igaire, Nigeria’s foremost clinical relationship and marriage counsellor and CEO MBDGN.
Although impaired, she expressed herself in tears, laughter, and gesticulations. It was vividly written all over her.
Although deaf, they gave the most beautiful, transparent and innocent expressions smothered with spotless smiles. Their only disabilities are speech and hearing impediments.